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Traveling by plane with an in-cabin dog: Carrier on lap during flight or not?

In an earlier post, I suggested that you pull your dog’s carrier out from under the seat in front of you and put it on your lap, after takeoff and before landing. I think the physical contact helps Chloe, and I certainly find it soothing. Southwest’s new pet policy set off alarms, however. On Southwest flights, your pet’s carrier must remain under the seat in front of you for the entire flight. Do other U.S. airlines have this same requirement? Turns out that some do, alas, so I’m providing you with two lists.

The first list below is of U.S. airlines that specifically require that your pet remain under the seat for the entire flight; the second is of airlines that either allow you to move her out from under the seat or that don’t specifically forbid it. To view the airlines’ complete pet policies, and see where the quotes I’ve provided come from, please visit Dog Jaunt’s list of U.S. airline pet policies.

In the second case, it’s never stated that you can put your dog’s carrier on your lap but it’s also not forbidden. As always, be courteous to your seatmates (make sure, for example, that no part of the carrier impinges on their space or blocks the armrest).

Please note that on every U.S. airline,  you cannot remove your dog from your carrier during flight, or allow any part of her to stick out of the carrier. At most, I will insert my arm into Chloe’s carrier, keeping the zipper closed up to my forearm so that she can’t poke her nose out.

So what will I do on airlines that require you to keep your dog under the seat? I will turn Chloe’s carrier (after takeoff) so that it’s half under the seat and half under my feet. That way, she has a bit more room, she can see me, and I can feed her ice cubes and treats during the flight. It’s no more than other passengers do with their carry-ons, and, as with their bags, it only takes up my floor space.

Airlines requiring that your dog’s carrier stay under the seat for the entire flight

AirTran (“The pet must remain in the carrier and under the seat for the duration of the flight.”)

Allegiant (“…pets must be comfortable while remaining in the carrier, under the seat, at all times.”)

American (“Pets must stay in their closed and/or zipped kennels under the seat in front of you at all times.”)

Southwest (“Cats and dogs must remain in the carrier (including head and tail) and the carrier must be stowed under the seat in front of the Customer (Owner) during the entire duration of the flight.”)

Sun Country (“Your pet must remain in its carrier and stowed during the entire flight underneath the seat in front of the passenger.”)

United (“The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times.”)

US Airways (“Pets must remain inside their approved container under the seat directly in front of you.”)

Airlines that allow you to move your dog’s carrier out from under the seat during flight (or don’t disallow it)

Please note that I have quoted the language each airline provides about in-cabin pets during flight — in many cases, the policies only say that the pet must remain in her carrier, which I regard as allowing (or at least not forbidding) me to put her carrier on my lap.

Keep in mind that flight attendants have the final say — if they tell you to stow your dog, stow her with a smile. It’s never a good idea to argue with flight attendants.

Alaska (“The pet must stay in its container (including head and tail) at all times while onboard, and be stowed under the seat during taxi, takeoff, and landing.”)

Continental (same as United)

Delta (“Your pet must remain inside the kennel (with door secured) while in a Delta boarding area (during boarding and deplaning), a Delta airport lounge, and while onboard the aircraft.”)

Frontier (“For safety reasons, your pet must remain in the travel container at all times. If your pet is disruptive, you must soothe him/her without taking him/her from the pet container.”)

Hawaiian (“The animal must be confined to the pet carrier, and is subject to inspection and approval by airline personnel prior to acceptance.”)

JetBlue (“All pets must remain inside the pet carrier while at the airport and onboard the aircraft.”)

Spirit (“Pets must remain in the container at all times on board the aircraft, and must be harmless, inoffensive, odorless, and require no attention during transit. Pets must be completely contained within the pet carrier.”)

Virgin America (“Pets must stay enclosed in their kennels while onboard and in the airport terminal.”)


  • Lynn

    I need to find somebody that has flown Allegiant with a pet and what size carrier they had and if a Sherpa Medium will work, it works with mosts major airlines but not sure about them. Please help. Have a little time to find out.

  • Katie

    I’ve flown on United with my dog on the empty seat beside me. I told the flight attendant the dog was scared due to the turbulence and asked (and was granted) permission to take him out. I am sure it helps that my dog is ridiculously cute.

  • Yvonne

    Hi I am planning on taking my 14lb terrier on American Airlines from Sfo to Mia! Can you recommend a different bag then the Amrican Airline? Has anyone traveld in then with a large sturdie bag?

  • Jamie Englert

    I flew Delta from Florida to Atlanta and then on to Indiana with my yorkie. My seat mate was a family member. When leaving Florida, my dog stayed in her carrier during take off. After take off, I took her out and held her the rest of the flight. When leaving Atlanta, I never put her in her carrier. On the first flight, the flight attendant said as long as she wasn’t disruptive and my seat mate didn’t mind, she could stay with me. When we waited for our connecting flight in Atlanta, I asked the person at desk at my gate if she could stay out with me and they said it was fine. I felt like Delta was very lenient and accommodating.

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